By Matt Brunson
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
DIRECTED BY Woody Allen
STARS Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins
Easily Woody Allen's raunchiest film, 1972's hilarious Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) features such outrageous and outrageously original gags as a gigantic, Kafka-by-way-of-Roth female breast terrorizing the countryside, and a sperm (played by Allen) afraid that his host body's masturbatory ways might result in his ending up on the ceiling. In You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, what passes for Allen's idea of an innovative sex gag? Anthony Hopkins' doddering character Alfie counting down the minutes until the Viagra tablet takes effect.
Alfie isn't the only one who has trouble getting it up. One of Allen's worst films (and this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed the lambasted Anything Else), Stranger is a flaccid piece that offers nothing in the way of stimulating drama or uplifting humor. A dour, ugly movie, it centers on a group of insufferable people making each other miserable in London. Alfie has left his grating wife Helena (Gemma Jones) to marry a young prostitute (Lucy Punch), while their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) contemplates an affair with her boss (Antonio Banderas) at the art gallery even as her novelist hubby (Josh Brolin) eyes the cutie (Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto) living in the neighboring building.
Allen used to display enormous amounts of warmth toward his characters, but here he holds them all in contempt. As a result, the humor tastes like curdled milk, while all notions of romance have been replaced with aggravating heartburn.